By Caroline Winter
I haven’t been to too many conferences yet, but I imagine that blithe comments about necrophilia and incest are relatively rare, and them being met with easy laughter is rarer still. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this happened at the conference of the International Gothic Association (IGA), but I didn’t expect the atmosphere to be so lighthearted. That’s not to say that there wasn’t serious scholarship happening; to the contrary, the amount of fascinating research presented on everything from Shakespeare to Supernatural was a little overwhelming.
The conference, the IGA’s 12th, took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, from July 28 to August 1, and the organizers did a wonderful job of highlighting the local Gothic culture. In addition to two readings by local writers—David Chariandy reading from Soucouyant and Wayde Compton from The Outer Harbour—there was a film screening and discussion of Gothic films produced in the Vancouver area.
One thing I learned at the conference is that the Gothic is a truly international phenomenon. A number of papers looked at Australian Gothic, for example, such as Stephen Carleton’s “Gothic Melodramatic Migrations,” which looked at Gothic melodramas staged in Australia in the nineteenth century. Deimantas Valanciunas’s paper, “Dark tales from Bollywood: Indian gothic horror cinema and the nation‘s Others,” introduced me and, I think, all the other attendees, to the world of Gothic Bollywood.
Although the program seemed dominated by more modern topics, there were papers and panels of interest to Romanticists, including a fantastic panel called Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Gothic Migration, with papers by Jerrold Hogle, Angela Wright, and Kim Wheatley. Other highlights included a panel on Ann Radcliffe’s textual migrations, a number of insightful papers about Frankenstein, Diane Long Hoeveler on Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia, and a fantastic plenary lecture by Dale Townshend called “16 October 1834: Architecture, Romance and the Migration of the Gothic Imagination.” Frankenstein, not surprisingly, lurked in the shadows of many papers, and although there was lots of discussion about vampires (zombies had their fair share too), I noticed that Polidori’s “The Vampyre” was generally overlooked in the papers I heard, most of which cited Dracula as the foundational vampire text.
The IGA is very friendly to graduate students. The membership fee is affordable, there was a strong graduate student presence at the conference, and the IGA has an active postgraduate community with a blog, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. It offers travel bursaries for grad students as well, which is great since the next conference will be held at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla in Cholula, Mexico in 2017, and an extra conference—coinciding with the bicentenary of Frankenstein—at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2018.